For those of you who keep up-to-date with the auction business, Paul Maudsley should be a familiar face. Having managed the sale of some of the world’s most important watches during his time with Phillips, Maudsley has now stepped back from the auction world to focus on his own business. We popped-down to speak with Paul about his passion for motoring and the one car he could never part with.
Where did this passion of yours for motoring come from?
I would say it has come from my father, he loves cars, I remember going to the Birmingham Motor Show with him when I was a young boy.
It all stemmed from there…
Yeah, absolutely. He would go to watch all the races at the Croft racetrack, which was local to us, so I would go along with him and my brother; there was always something automotive happening in our family when I was young.
It runs in the blood then, so to speak…
Yeah, definitely. My dad had some nice cars early on, nothing particularly rare, but cars that he loved.
What are we talking?
He had Triumphs, British sports cars. My brother is in the automotive business too. He’d spent ten years at the Anglesey Circuit in Race Control, he also does the Goodwood’s, Silverstone’ race events, you know, so it’s been a long-standing thing for us.
Do you recall the first time you saw a special car when you were young?
Yes, the first was a Ferrari and I would have been approaching ten years old when I saw that. It’s only taken me thirty years or so to make that dream of owning one a reality [laughs].
"He was into Lamborghini and I was a Ferrari guy, you know two 15 year olds dreaming. I think we bet £20 on who would be first, and I was lucky to win that bet."
[Laughs] It could be worse…
I had a bet with a friend of mine when I was 15 of who would be the first to buy our dream cars. He was into Lamborghini and I was a Ferrari guy, you know two 15 year olds dreaming. I think we bet £20 on who would be first, and I was lucky to win that bet [laughs].
Yeah, I did [laughs]. Although, I didn’t collect to rub it in his face, it was all a bit of fun.
What was it about Ferraris' that spoke to you?
Generally speaking it’s the aesthetics of them that grip me. There are elements of the design that I’ve always liked, they seem so exotic when you’re a kid and you never think you’ll actually end-up driving them.
You went to art school, didn’t you?
Yeah, I attended York Art College to study three dimensional design, which involved elements of ceramics and silversmithing within the course.
"I was 100% certain that it wasn’t because the 365 had the six tail pipes which I just thought was fantastic."
The Ferrari 365 GT4 BB has always been your dream car right?
Yeah, ever since I saw it when I was a young lad I’d been obsessed. A lot of people thought I had seen the 512, but I was 100% certain that it wasn’t, because the 365 had the six tail pipes which I just thought was fantastic. That blew my mind that you could have six exhausts on a car.
Obviously back then, pre-internet, seeing a car like this was a genuinely rare occasion…
It really was, it was a standout moment for me personally. These days you see supercars everywhere around London, all over the internet, we’re almost conditioned to see them and it’s not special. As a boy, the only times I got to see my dream cars were on posters or my brother had a BBbburago scale model of the Ferrari 512 BB.
Was this your first Ferrari?
No, actually I had a 308 GT4 Dino before this one, but I had always pined after this exact car, in the blue.
You mentioned that the aesthetics were important to you, but were you ever taken by the mechanics of it all?
Absolutely, I love mechanics, I love all sorts of engines, combustion engines from planes to motorcars. The thing above all else that I really appreciate about cars is that you can be into your Mark I Escorts, you can be into your Austin Healeys and still get personal joy. These things don’t need to be expensive to derive pleasure from them, for example, I’m quite known for collecting less expensive chronographs with no names on them, but that doesn’t matter to me, they give me a lot of joy.
I saw an amazing old TR7 the other day, and I hadn’t seen one for a long time, and I thought wow it looks really cool. Would I own one? probably not, but that car is the pride and joy of the owner and I really appreciate that.
There’s a lot of snobbery it seems with modern cars, is that the experience you’ve had?
Well, I think there are certain types that go after investment angles on these kinds of things, but for the most part it’s full of passion. The investors might not be so happy at the moment as the market seems to have gone a little soft.
So the community spirit is as strong as ever?
Yeah, definitely, there are a lot of great collectors sharing a lot of knowledge, it’s fantastic. Social media has played a big part in the sharing of this kind of knowledge, I use it regularly for learning on these kinds of things. Whether it’s a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms or a Ferrari 250 GTO, you can usually find something. You have to be cautious though, because naturally there are false truths that get shared a lot. Likewise, people posing in-front of cars that they don’t own, or with watches that don’t belong to them.
Yeah and a bit of a bug-bear of mine [laughs]. I won’t mention any names.
So, when did watches come onto your radar?
When I was young, not long after seeing the Ferrari actually, I inherited a watch from my grandmother. She gave it to me when I was thirteen, and she had been given the watch by a chap called Ralph from Wisconsin, during the Second World War.
"I inherited a watch from my grandmother. She gave it to me when I was thirteen, and she had been given the watch by a chap called Ralph from Wisconsin, during the Second World War"
And what was the watch?
It was an American watch by a brand called Gruen and despite loving mechanical things, I hadn’t really ever thought about watches. At this time, most people were buying the first wave of relatively cheap digital watches, and all of a sudden I have this beautiful, mechanical watch from 1945.
It must have been quite a nice thing to inherit at that age…
Yeah, it was so elegant and I just loved the style of the tonneau shaped case, the centre seconds, I loved it. That gave me the watch-collecting bug, and so I started soaking up as much information as I could find about them at the library.
Were there auction catalogues kicking around?
Not really no, there weren’t specific watch sales back then. I suppose the first ones came-out in ’85 or ’86 maybe with Sotheby’s but that was it.
And then it became an ambition of yours to work in the watch industry?
Yeah, I managed to land a job with Bonham’s after university, in their clock and watch department, so that was perfect.
Did you not want to work with cars at any point?
Actually, no it never really crossed my mind back then; not sure why.
Seems like it would have been a logical path for you…
Yeah, and even around then, there would have been a good chance at getting a job in the car industry over the watch world.
There are a lot of parallels between the two topics though, wouldn’t you say?
There is a lot of synergy, and you know, some of my biggest car clients are watch collectors and vice-versa. It’s interesting how they are always associated now, even in advertising or sponsorships.
But then so were cigarettes, but I’m not working with British American Tobacco [laughs]...
They’re both similar in that they’re lead by passion and neither are effectively ‘necessary’…
Yeah, definitely, you know, I think this is something that gives a little bit of joy back. Collecting is a wonderful thing to do, it’s something I’ve done for as long as I can remember actually, stamps, matchboxes and beer mats; just about anything I could get my hands on.
Were your parents collectors?
No, strangely not. It seems to be something that was born with me. There was a field near me where I grew up as a child that the farmer would plough regularly and I’d go searching for fragments of ceramics, little clay pipes and things like that. I’ve always had this urge in me to uncover things, like treasure hunting in a way.
Presumably, having worked in the auction business for some time now, you have some stories…
Well, there is one standout story which was during my time at Bonham’s in 2002, I received a call from a Jewish charity saying that they had been left an estate from a gentleman called Mr Zimmerman. He had a house not far from where I lived, so I went over for a visit to see what was there. There was a mixture of things, beautiful pocket watches, clocks, some amazing stuff then in the living room there was a huge, built-in, mahogany cupboard from the 1890s...
Following this visit, we went to see another of his properties, this time in Rome and there were boxes and boxes of papers being thrown out and by chance, I saw a pencil sketch of what looked to be the cupboard back in the UK.
On this drawing was instructions on how to open a secret compartment which had been built in. I immediately picked up the phone in a panic to check that the house hadn’t yet been sold, and luckily it hadn’t. We paid a second visit to the house, instructions in hand, opened the compartment and there were some spectacularly rare pocket watches hidden away, all hung on fishing wire.
Wow, that’s incredible.
They could have been left in the house and sold to someone who had no idea, ripped all the furnishings out and never have been discovered. These pieces formed part of a specific estate sale called the Zimmerman Collection sale and a lot of those pieces wound-up in museums.
"On this drawing was instructions on how to open a secret compartment which had been built in."
Let’s talk a little more about your 365…
Were you specifically looking for a blue car?
Yeah, this was the colour of the one I saw when I was a boy, so it had to be blue. This car popped-up for sale and it had been sprayed resale red in the 80s, as most were. The car was originally blue though when sold in 1974, so it made sense to get this one and restore it.
Good to correct that, in a way…
Yeah, and this car had a good history, it was within budget, so I decided to go for it.
And the car was mechanically sound when you got it?
Yeah, it had been well looked after in the UK but with these kinds of things, you never really know the full extent of the condition until you strip the paint. Sometimes you will find that there are cars that are patchwork pieces of metal, or have a load of filler on them.
Quite a worrying process then…
And a cruel process as it’s all shaved off by hand. There are no hot air guns or anything like that, and that takes it back to the bare aluminium. The guy who did it, told me that they had a similar car going through the same process a few weeks prior to mine and they discovered a bit of a mess from all the bumps and countless welding from over the years. So was highly relieved when my car showed no signs of damage or botched repairs of the past.
That’s got to be a painful moment…
It’s a terrifying process and you’re paying for it too [laughs].
Presumably this car has made its way through some distant terrain with you?
Yeah, and it runs beautifully for long distances. I drove it 1000 miles through France just last year and had no issues at all, no overheating which you might expect. I mean, any classic car driver should carry a fire extinguisher, whether you have something not so valuable or something astronomical. It’s never nice to see someone's pride and joy go up in flames. I’m sure you’ve seen the video of the Miura online…
Yeah, horrible scenes…
It’s always a tragedy.
Are there any other dream cars that escape the budget right now?
There are many, DK engineering had a 288 GTO which was £395,000 at the time I bought my BB and my budget was around the £150,000 mark. My aspiration at the time was to work hard and maybe I could get there, well I work hard, but that car rose quickly and is now a £2 million car, so…
[Laughs] That ship has sailed then…
Unless I suddenly find a Patek Philippe 1518 in stainless steel, a fifth unknown one, I think so, but you never know!